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Genesis 11:31-12-1 appears to indicate that Abram left Haran after his father Terah had died. (The author of the New Testament book of Acts certainly saw it that way.)

Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram's wife, and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan; but when they came to Haran, they settled there. The days of Terah were two hundred five years; and Terah died in Haran.

Now the Lord said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.

However, according to Genesis 11:26 Terah was 70 years old when "became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran." Subtract this from the 205 years Terah is said to have lived according to Genesis 11:32, and Abram would have been 135 years old when his father died.

But according to Genesis 12:4, "Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran."

How can these statements be reconciled? Or is one of the numbers simply wrong?

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6 Answers 6

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Short Answer: Abram did indeed depart from Haran after his father died, as the Old Testament indicates, and as the New Testament explicitly claims. (Terah was 130 years old when Abram was born.)

Good question. (This happens to be one of the most commonly asked -- and addressed -- "discrepancies" in Scripture.)

The problem is in the modern Western reading of an ancient Hebrew text. First, a note about Hebrew chronologies...

A lesson from Noah's sons: Genesis 5:32 states, “Noah was five hundred years old, and Noah became the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth.” Every time Noah’s sons are listed, they are listed in this order (Genesis 6:10, 7:13, 9:18, 10:1). One might think Shem was the oldest and Japheth was the youngest based on the order in the text, but that is incorrect. Genesis 9:22-24 indicates Ham was the youngest. Genesis 10:21 indicates there was also an "oldest" (There is some question whether Shem or Japheth was older, due to the differences in translation.) So we are not looking at twins or triplets, since there was an oldest, and Ham was the youngest. Thus, the age given probably refers to the age when Noah became a father (i.e. the birth of the firstborn), and is not meant to be read as all three being born in one year, in that order.

A second look at Terah's sons: Genesis 11:26 is similar. It indicates that Terah was 70 years old when he became a father, and that he was the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran was most likely the oldest since Abram was traveling with Lot (Genesis 12:5), Haran’s son (Genesis 11:27), and Nahor married Haran’s daughter (Genesis 11:29.) Regardless, we have a similar situation to Noah's sons, where we ought not to take this as an indication that three sons were born to him in the same year, in that order. The text is not claiming they were all born when he was 70.

Obvious solution: Abram left after his father died, as you indicated in your question. So, Abram seems to have been born when Terah was 130, which makes him 75 years old when he left.

The most common objection: When this solution is rejected, it is usually out of a difficulty understanding why Abram fell on his face and laughed at the idea of having a son when he was 100 and his wife was 90 (Genesis 17:17). Several things need to be noted here:

  • Though the chronologies are all bunched together in the text, keep in mind that Abram said this 100 years after Terah fathered a child at an old age -- that is a long time! The lifespans had been rapidly declining since the time of the flood (which was very recent for Abraham), so things may very well have looked bleak to Abram -- regardless of how old Terah was when Abram was born.

  • We're talking about the words of a man struggling with his faith in God's promises... not exactly something you want to build doctrine on.

  • Abram didn't seem to have any trouble believing he could bear a child by Hagar, who was 86 (Genesis 16:16).

  • We already know that the birth of Isaac had to be miraculous because of Sarah's physical condition, so it is conceivable that Abram's health was also deteriorated. This may partially explain his unbelief. (cf. Romans 4:19, Hebrews 11:12)

  • Some have noted that Abram had now been living with Hagar for 13 years without bearing additional children... he may have had the idea that he was no longer able to "beget."

  • After his wife Sarah had died at the age of 127 (Genesis 23:1-2), Abraham -- who by now would have been over 140 years old -- took another wife and had 6 more kids by her (Genesis 25:1-6)!

  • Abraham's grandson, Jacob, became the father of his son Benjamin when he was 100 years old.

In summary, Abram's comment does not seem to have had as much to do with Terah's life (or anyone else's) as it did with his own life and Sarai's.

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To summarise:

On the one hand we have the evidence of Stephen's speech and the vuv consecutive (or consecutive preterite) וַיֹּאמֶר of Genesis 12:1.

On the other hand, we have the arithmetic demonstrating that Abram left Haran before his father died.

If one wishes to reconcile these, it is really very simple. The vuv consecutive is in some versions translated as 'now', but there is no significant reason to do so. The strongest translation would be 'and', but even that is too strong. It signifies a continuance of the narrative, and not necessarily a sequence in time. If Stephen's speech is recorded accurately, it is still only Stephen's speech. I have never heard that biblical inerrancy should be extended so that everything everyone is recorded as saying in the bible should also be seen as inerrant.

On balance it seems clear that Abram did leave Haran before his father died and that Stephen was speaking loosely or incorrectly. Indeed, in Genesis 12:1 when he is told to go from his father's house, how can he leave his father's house unless his father is still alive? If Terah was dead, then as the firstborn it would have been Abram's house that he were to take with him.

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If you consider that chapter 12 is going back in the timeline of Abraham prior to the events at the end of chapter 11, it makes a lot of sense. Also, assuming the firstborn status of Abraham is shaky based on the textual evidence, and God clearly has no problem with bringing His will to bear through non-firstborn children. Jas3.1's answer makes much more sense than to assume Stephen was wrong. –  mbm29414 Sep 26 at 14:03

Abraham may easily have left Haran both before and after his father Terah died. While he left the city of Haran at one age, he also had a brother with the name Haran. Not everything is Scripture is in chronological order. Also, sometimes one name is used more than once.
Haran was name of the city he left, but he also had a brother by the name of Haran.

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Forgive me. Let me clarify. I'm saying that Haran was the name of a city but also the name of a brother of his. He could have left Haran the city at one point and Haran the brother at another point. –  John Martin Oct 30 '13 at 21:42
I'm just suggesting the use of the same name for more than just one person can be confusing (e.g. Mary's in the New Testament). Here it is just the name of the city, but also the name of Abraham's brother. –  John Martin Oct 31 '13 at 14:44

The First Separation: separation from his homeland and relatives, separation from Terah (Gen 12:1; Acts 7:2-4)

Ur of the Chaldeans was the place where Abraham's ancestors had lived and worshiped idols (Josh 24:2, 15). His departure from this land represents the first step in faith for Christians: separation from the world. Ur of the Chaldeans was a fertile land located southeast of Baghdad and was the center of the ancient civilization as well as the center of idolatry. Idol worship had achieved its peak during Abraham's time, and Terah was more absorbed in worshiping idols than in worshiping the true God. This was when God commanded Abraham, "Depart from your country and your relatives" (Gen 12:1. Acts 7:2-4). He obeyed and departed from Ur of the Chaldeans with his father, Terah, and arrived in Haran. Terah however, was tempted by the ease of life in Haran and settled there, though it should have been a mere rest stop on the way to Canaan.

At last when Abraham was 75 years old, God called him a second time, but this time He commanded Abraham to leave not only his country and his relatives, but also his father's house (Gen 12:1). This was an intensified command spurred on by Abraham's failure to fully obey God's command when he had first been called out of Ur. Gen 12:4-5 clarified that it was only after Abraham had fully obeyed God's command to separate from his father's house that he was able to enter Canaan.

Gen 12:4-5 So Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 And Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran, and thy set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came to the land of Canaan.

Because Abraham was living in a patriarchal society, it was difficult for him to reject his father's wishes and leave him behind. He was 75 years old, and his father Terah was 145 years old and alive, when he left Haran (Gen 11:26, 12:4). It must have been heartbreaking for the firstborn in charge of the household to leave his father in his old age. The verse in Acts 7:4, "And from there, after his father died, God removed him into this country in which you are now living," show how determined Abraham had been to follow the Word of God. The word for "death" in Acts 7:4 is ἀποθνῄσκω (apothnesko) in Greek, used to represent symbolic death or death in a spiritual sense (1Cor 15:31). It is apparent that this word was used to signify Abraham's total separation from his filial affections for his father. Terah was as good as dead to him (Luke 14:26). Terah died 60 years later in Haran at the age of 205 (Gen 11:32). Abraham overcame the pain of such separation and followed the word with faith (Gen 12:4).

  • refer to book: The Genesis Genealogies -
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Acts 7 New International Version (NIV)

Stephen’s Speech to the Sanhedrin

"7 Then the high priest asked Stephen, “Are these charges true?” 2 To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Harran. 3 ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.’

4 “So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Harran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living."

Seems clear enough, "After the death".

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Did you read the question? According to Genesis, Abraham was 75 when he left Haran, and 135 when his father died. So despite Stephen's speech in Acts, it's not so clear. –  Bruce Alderman Mar 27 at 13:21
@Drake Welcome to BHSE! We're a little different here, please read our Site Directives as you ask and answer questions. Thank you! –  Tau Mar 28 at 1:21
@Drake I'm afraid Bruce Alderman has pointed out the obvious-see "Gone Quiet's" response to note the discrepency. Thank you! –  Tau Mar 28 at 1:23

Quite simply Teraach was 70 years old when he begot abram, nahor and haran. (maybe they were triplets), All three born in UR, Haran dies in Ur . Then Terach and his two remaining sons head out to Canaan; but they came as far as haran. Now Haran was named Haran by the family in memory of their son. Clearly he was murdered in Ur and thats why his father decided to leave Ur to go to Canaan, but they liked the land of Haran and settled there. Terach dies in Haran at 205. making abraham 135 years old so it contradicts the idea that abraham left when he was 75 so it means he left before his father died when his father was 145.

One interesting point is that the samaritan Torah says that that terah lived 145 years, which would make sense that abraham left exactly after the death of his father like when they left Ur after the death of haran.

And when God spoke to abraham to go to CANAAN, the first place he goes to to build an altar is SHECHEM, (mount gerizim), the place where israel was commanded to make the blessings. According to samaritans this place is also BET -el, and is the chosen place. and Jacob also worshipped god there and say angels etc. Now the story of isaac when he is to be sacrificed is a mystery, his father and his son both worshipped at bet el which is in shechhem, and to him it just says he went to ERETZ MORIAH, now it doesnt specify which mountain, just a landform, now the difference between ALON MOREH and MORIAH is only a yud, since these places were in the land of the amorites, AMORI, MOREH, MORIAH, they are all connected . JErusalem was JEBUSITE so it doesnt make sense, and also why would isaac be taken to a different place to the place abraham chose and jacob too. and joseph was burried there, and joseph whos land was blessed, has the blessing of the burning bush or the presence of god. IE THE TABERNACLE.

Conclusion - The Samaritans indeed worship at the right site, The kingdom was divided ONLY after SOlomon built a temple in jerusalem. Since the other 11 tribes worshipped at Mount gerizim, SCHEM/BEt-el, elon moreh etc etc. 11 tribes of israel and JUDAH, JUdah was cut off from the rest of Israel, and if you say God chose Judah over the other 11 tribes, i say rubbish, firstly Bot King david and Solomon were not men of God, King DAVID FOUGHT all his wars him self, without the help of the angel of God. He Sinned horribly in the eyes of god, having multiple wives and collecting much gold and murdering etc etc etc. FOr god to make an everlasting covenant with david would seem insane. More so to allow a man like King solomon TO suddenly build a temple, after they had been 400 years worshipping god just fine in the tabernacle of moses, since to god it doesnt make a difference, temple or tabernacle, as long as its kept holy. He doesnt desire GOLD and RICH BUILDING, he is HUMBLE, he dwells in a tent. Solomon we know worshipped many gods, so it would seem crazy for god to choose his seed to make an everlasting covenant.

COnclusion, as this weeks portion is the story of Judah deciding to send Joseph away to the ishmaelites and COVER -UP josephs DEATH, so maybe he will take the glory over the rest of his brothers, the same story happened in the nation of ISrael. Judah tried to cover-up the original place of the tabernacle , and take the kingship from Joseph, but Joseph was given the blessing from jacob already. It cant be taken back.

The idea of a moshiach ben Yosef and a moshiach ben david is quite funny. I would say since joseph had two dreams about ruling over his brothers, first in EGypt when there was a famine, and secondly in the end of days when the chosen place is re-established, and TRIBE of joseph made King over his brothers, especially over JUDAH, the betrayer. Amen

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